The Exhibition Rooms, London, SE19
The Exhibition Rooms
69-71 Westlow Hill
Tel: 020 8761 1175
What most Londoners really crave
(when they have had enough of their
own four walls and can’t
be bothered to cook) is to live
near a cracking local restaurant.
One that serves good food at affordable
prices in a welcoming atmosphere.
The lucky residents of leafy Crystal
Palace have got just that in the
form of The Exhibition Rooms. Situated
in a buzzy parade of shops and
only a five minute walk from the
station, lies a unique setting
akin to a classical drawing room
in an upmarket London townhouse.
The spacious and refined dining
room is filled with personal touches
in the form of the owners love
of antiques. The interior is airy
and uncluttered, with an eclectic
mix of dark wooden tables, mismatched
elegant chairs and stylish Italian
chandeliers. Tables are well spaced
with music played at a level just
right for conversations to remain
The menu has plenty to tempt at
the sort of prices that one doesn’t
easily find in central London.
To begin I tried a terrific plate
of freshly picked Cornish crab
with green papaya and mango, coriander
and a zingy nam jim dressing. This
was a dish of subtle Asian flavours
that lingered on the palate and
kicked my taste buds into touch
nicely for the rest of the afternoon.
With this I tried a glass of Klippenkop
South African Chenin Blanc, and
at only £5.00 seemed an incredible
snip. My guest’s steak tartare
came with a quail’s egg at
the centre in a half shell and
scored all round high marks in
presentation, texture and flavour.
In all there were nine starters
to chose between, all around the £6.00-£7.00
mark. These included scallops with
garlic and chilli and a squid,
pancetta and chickpea broth.
The main courses included something
for all appetites, from kids favourites,
(burgers and fish and chips) through
to proper grown up food. Including
roasted salt marsh lamb served
with puy lentils, crushed potatoes,
black pudding and salsa verde and
fried halibut with haricot blanc,
Scottish griolles, truffle and
vermouth veloute. As it was Sunday
lunch I couldn’t resist a
roast. There were two on that day,
pork and beef. I ordered the pork
and got the full Monty. All the
trimmings, including a Yorkshire
pud, plenty of apple sauce, loads
of veg, including parsnips, carrots,
beans and roast potatoes plus crispy
crackling, all served with a rich
gravy. A satisfying plate of flavours
the meat being tasty and tender.
A glass of Argentine Malbec with
spicy flavour and a touch of tanin
went down a treat. My guest tried
the roasted saddle of Rutland venison
served with rosti potatoes, braised
cabbage and juniper juice. He said
the red cabbage had a satisfying
flavour a little like mulled wine
and all the flavours on the plate
blended perfectly with the succulent
meat. A glass of Tempranillo held
its own and complemented excellently.
Five puds were on offer, and included
the rib sticker, sticky toffee
pudding with vanilla ice-cream,
white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake
and orange panacotta with pineapple
and pink peppercorns. It is an
art to produce good panacotta and
my guest was impressed with his.
Adding that the flavour was good
with just the right degree of ‘wobble’ which
he stressed was an important factor
and who am I to argue with a man
of Italian extraction?
If you’re in the mood to
relax with a glass of wine or a
post or pre-dinner cocktail but
don’t want to travel far,
look no further than down the stairs.
Awaiting you is a lounge bar with
a very cool vibe, complete with
funky zebra patterned sofas, cool
music, and an area called The Boudoir,
which is a great place to hang
out with a group of friends. In
the summer there’s also a
terrace perfect for al fresco drinking.
The Exhibition Rooms has a great
deal to offer, all at affordable
prices. So if, like me, you enjoy
hanging out in a relaxed atmosphere
with your mates, you lucky South
Londoners have now got somewhere
right on your doorstep.
Louise Elgin. December 2008.
A three course meal for two with
wine and water is around £40.00